August is National Immunization Awareness Month

With many school districts across Pennsylvania opening their doors this month, the Departments of Health and Education are announcing the “Don’t Wait. Vaccinate.” campaign to remind parents of the importance of having their children’s immunizations up-to-date before they start class.

Image/Pennsylvania Department of Health
Image/Pennsylvania Department of Health

“August should serve as an easy reminder for parents to make sure their school-aged children’s vaccines are current before they return to school in the fall,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “Vaccines help protect children against 14 childhood diseases that can be very serious or even deadly. A good rule of thumb is to always make vaccines a part of your child’s regular school physical before they enter kindergarten and seventh grade. Keeping their vaccinations current will help them have a happy, healthy school year.”

Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: tetanus, diphtheria, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Children entering the seventh grade also need additional immunizations of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap).

“The Department of Education reminds parents that students’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being can greatly impact their academic success and satisfaction at school,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “As you’re putting together your back-to-school to-do lists this summer, remember vaccinations can help protect your student against illnesses that can cause academic disruptions or even more serious complications. The health and safety of the commonwealth’s students is critically important, and parents shouldn’t wait to vaccinate.”

All of the vaccines listed above will be provided at clinics the Department of Health is holding across the commonwealth between August 10 and 21. The purpose of the clinics is to provide immunizations at little or no cost for children through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or American Indian or Alaska Native. The cost is $5 per child (payable by check or money order) for families above income guidelines, however no child will be turned away because of an inability to pay.

Parents whose children meet the requirements for the vaccine clinics must call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to schedule an appointment. Parents must bring their child’s vaccination records to their scheduled appointment. A parent/legal guardian must accompany the child receiving immunizations. DOH staff will need to be notified prior to the appointment if someone other than the child’s parent/legal guardian will be accompanying him/her.

In addition to these special back-to-school vaccine clinics, the Department of Health regularly schedules immunization clinics throughout the year across the commonwealth. Interested individuals can call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) any time to get more information.

August also marks the annual National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), which reminds people of all ages to keep up-to-date on immunizations. NIAM’s goal is to increase awareness about immunizations, from infants to the elderly.

“Vaccines are not just for children,” Dr. Murphy added. “Immunizations provide protection that adults need – particularly older Pennsylvanians or those with certain chronic medical conditions – to help them stay as healthy as possible.”